Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
The Korea Post ( www.koreapost.com )
LG home appliance factory in the U.S. to win prestigious ‘lighthouse’ status
LG Electronics’ home appliance manufacturing plant in the United States has been selected as a world-leading Lighthouse Factory by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The million-square-foot factory in Clarksville, Tennessee – the U.S. production base for LG’s award-winning washers and dryers – is the industry’s first home appliance plant in the United States to join the WEF’s global network. Also, it is the company’s second Lighthouse Factory, following on the heels of the LG Smart Park in Changwon, South Korea, which was selected by the WEF last year.
Hyundai Motor promotes Busan’s bid to host World Expo 2030
Hyundai Motor Group promoted the South Korean city of Busan’s bid to host World EXPO 2030 at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, an event that engages the world’s top political, business and cultural leaders, on Jan. 16. During the forum held from Jan. 16 to 20, the Group operated a fleet of 58 vehicles wrapped with Busan’s World Expo 2030 logo to promote the city to the forum-attending world political and business leaders, Swiss citizens and other visitors.
Korea holds talks with Poland, Czech Republic on energy cooperation
Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Lee Chang-yang, on the occasion of the World Economic Forum (WEF), held bilateral talks with the industry and energy ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic on Jan. 18 in Davos to discuss cooperation in nuclear power plants and high-tech industries. Minister Lee met with Jacek Sasin, the Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State Assets, to discuss cooperation in nuclear power plants. Prime Minister Sasin is one of the key figures leading the two countries’ joint Pątnów nuclear power plant project.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Students to Start New School Year without Having to Wear Masks
More than 1,700 schools across the country will start their new school year next week after the winter break. And for the first time in almost three years, students will be able to go to school without wearing masks. This comes as the health authorities in Korea have removed, from next Monday, the mandatory requirement to wear a mask. They say however that wearing masks is still "recommended." The health authorities will distribute the full guidelines for mask use by this Friday.
Small Businesses Are Disappearing from Korea
Small businesses are disappearing as a result of lockdown, higher labor costs and the rise of online commerce. According to Statistics Korea, there were 5.63 million self-employed workers last year, from noodleshop owners to graphic designers, to account for 20.5 percent of people in work. In 1963, when statistics began, self-employed workers made up 37 percent, but their number fell below 30 percent in 1989. Some 4.27 million employed no staff last year, the most since the global financial crisis in 2008 as lockdown and the steeply rising minimum wage squeezed them to breaking point.
More Koreans Pawn Belongings
Low-income households and people with bad credit are turning to pawnshops to raise cash as they are being turned away even by subprime lenders. Many pawnshops closed down in recent years due to the prolonged ultra-low interest period. They are also classified as lenders and provide loans equivalent to 80 to 90 percent the value of the collateralized items, charging 20 percent interest, which is the legal limit. If clients fail to pick up their belongings because they cannot pay within the agreed time, the pawnshop gets to sell them to collect the money.
Joongang Ilbo (https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com )
Yoon Suk Yeol wraps up visit to UAE, Switzerland
President Yoon Suk Yeol wrapped up a weeklong tour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Switzerland, a trip which focused heavily on economic diplomacy. In his last schedule on a four-day visit to Switzerland Thursday afternoon, Yoon called for science and technology cooperation, including in research and development, as he met with quantum physicists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich).
Jobis & Villains takes the headache out of tax refunds in Korea
When the New Year comes around, many Korean office workers face a period of hassle as they have to settle year-end tax reporting. For those working on contracts with a number of entities, the frustration is multiplied when tax time comes, which for them is in May. Kim Bum-seop, CEO and Founder of Jobis & Villains, figured that the task is so time-consuming and document-heavy that many of them will just skip filing and give up on getting the refunds.
Biden nominates Turner as North Korea human rights envoy
U.S. President Joe Biden nominated a new special envoy for North Korean human rights, the White House announced Monday, moving to fill a post that’s been vacant for six years. The nominee was identified as Julie Turner, who now serves as director of the Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State.
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
Frigid cold in China and Japan sets record low
Temperatures plunged in China and Japan. China’s northernmost city saw the temperature dip to minus 53 degrees Celsius, the lowest temperature recorded in modern record for China. A spell of freezing weather also hit Japan in 10 years. China’s northernmost city of Mohe saw its temperature dip to minus-53 Celsius, the lowest temperature recorded ever observed since 1969, breaking the previous coldest temperature on record of minus 52.3 degrees Celsius, according to the Chinese media outlet Tung Shun Wang on Tuesday.
SK’s Social Progress Credit scheme recognized at WEF
SK Corporation’s “Social Progress Credit” scheme was well-received at the Davos Forum this year. According to SK Group on Tuesday, the World Economic Forum published an article titled “How social enterprises offer big business pathways to sustainable innovations” on its website, which featured SK’s program. Chairman Chey had initially proposed the scheme at the 2013 Davos Forum by measuring social progress created by social enterprises and giving cash incentives in proportion to such social progress.
Special attention should be paid to COVID generation
COVID-19 has left many challenges for the education community, such as delayed development of young children and deteriorating academic performance of students. Experts point out that the so-called “COVID generation,” referring to students who wore masks to school and received online education, requires special attention and support. Deteriorated academic performance impacted by the pandemic was evident in the national academic achievement evaluation.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
Yoon to expand nuclear power development and cooperation
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said he plans to further develop the nuclear energy industry as countries are targeting to become carbon neutral by 2050. Yoon said Korea would share its nuclear power plant technologies with countries around the world that want to go carbon neutral, highlighting the point that the energy source is clean and that his administration will find various channels for global cooperation on nuclear energy.
Korea’s bond market recovers on the back of state-led measures
South Korea’s money market is showing signs of stabilizing three months after the government laid out measures in October to expand liquidity to calm bond market jitters. According to an analysis by Maeil Business Newspaper on Thursday, about 15.7 trillion won ($12.7 billion) out of more than 50 trillion won in the government’s emergency funds for corporate bond and commercial paper purchases has been used. While demand for these funds have been lower than expected, about 43 trillion won in policy funds that can be injected into the market immediately when needed.
Korean EV battery makers to invest $2.84 bn on factory automations in U.S.
Korean electric vehicle battery makers are pouring money into process automation to boost product yields in response to growing EV demand worldwide. According to sources on Thursday, Korea’s three major battery names ? LG Energy Solution Ltd., SK on Co. and Samsung SDI Co. ? are seeking to invest a combined 3.5 trillion won ($2.84 billion) in automation and inspection equipment at their U.S. plants this year alone.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Korea: An economic success where everyone is unhappy
Are we a success story or a failure? No country has ever achieved rapid economic growth rivaling that of Korea since the beginning of history. According to data collected by the Madison Project, Korea’s per capita GDP based on real purchasing power grew more than 4000% from $916 in 1946, after liberation, to $37,928 in 2018. This is a growth that is incomparable to that of Germany and Japan, countries that are lauded for achieving economic miracles in the wreckage of World War II, and even to that of China, which has basically rewritten the history of rapid growth.
For many Koreans, retirement means more work with less security
“I didn’t think I would be, but I’m all choked up.” Jeong Seok-cheol, 61, a production worker at SNT Dynamics in Changwon, is retired. It was Dec. 27, 2022, and the yellow, red and pink balloons his grizzled coworkers at the factory had hung up in the union office ahead of his retirement were funny, tender and sad. Jeong hugged each of his coworkers and left the factory, where few young people work.
Yoon wants nukes, but what he needs is a reality check
President Yoon Suk-yeol raised eyebrows last week when he mentioned the possibility of South Korea possessing its own nuclear weapons as a way to counter the North Korean nuclear threat. Although he added a condition, saying the situation would first have to get more “serious,” these comments mark the first time a South Korean president directly mentions the possibility of independent nuclear armament. As such, the weight of his words is significant.
The KyungHyangShinmun (http://english.khan.co.kr/)
Prime Minister Han, “Mandatory Indoor Mask Regulation to Be Eased to Recommendation Beginning January 30”
On Friday, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo announced, “In the Central Headquarters meeting today, we plan to discuss and finalize a decision to ease the mandatory indoor mask regulation to a recommendation, with the exception of some facilities, starting January 30.” The prime minister made the announcement in a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters in response to COVID-19, which he presided over in the government office in Seoul Friday.
A Startup Claims, “Lotte Stole Our Technology to Release a Product.” Government Searching for Evidence
The Ministry of SMEs and Startups is looking into a controversial case over stolen technology and ideas, involving Lotte Healthcare, an affiliate of the Lotte Group, and the startup, AlgoCare. On January 19, the SMEs ministry announced, “If the company that suffered damages requests an administrative inquiry into patent infringements and mediation for technology disputes, we plan to facilitate a swift arbitration and provide litigation costs if the mediation fails.”
Intelligence Agency Searches the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions in Pursuit of Spy Activity
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the police conducted a search and seizure of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) head office in Jung-gu and the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union office in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul on January 18 in connection to a probe into alleged violations of the National Security Act by the labor executives. This was the first time that a state agency searched the head office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions for allegations connected to communism, and not directly related to union activities such as a strike or demonstration. Some experts claim that the Yoon Suk-yeol government has begun cracking down on opposing forces in the name of security.
S. Korea Summons Japanese Diplomat to Protest Hayashi's Dokdo Claims
The government summoned a Japanese diplomat in Seoul to lodge a protest over recent claims by the Japanese foreign minister to the Dokdo islets in the East Sea. According to the government, Seo Min-jung, director general for Asia and Pacific affairs at Seoul's foreign ministry, brought in Naoki Kumagai, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Monday, regarding Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi's territorial claim to Dokdo. Hayashi said on Monday in a parliamentary policy speech that Dokdo is Japanese territory according to historical facts and that his country will act accordingly based on that stance.
Pentagon: N. Korea's Potential Nuclear Test Remains a Concern
The U.S. Department of Defense said that the United States remains concerned about a possible nuclear test by North Korea and vowed to closely work with its allies, including South Korea, regarding the possibility. Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder said on Tuesday in a press briefing that the U.S. remains concerned that North Korea is prepared to conduct a seventh nuclear test. Ryder said that it would certainly be a destabilizing action in the region, and that it is something that the U.S. continues to keep a close eye on.
Yoon Calls for Global Cooperation, Solidarity to Overcome Complex Crisis in Davos Speech
President Yoon Suk Yeol called for global cooperation and solidarity to overcome the complex crisis the world is facing. The president made the call on Thursday during a special address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In the 15-minute speech, President Yoon stressed that enhancing supply chain resilience is the most urgent task the world must deal with and South Korea will be a key partner in that pursuit.
U.S. may appoint special envoy solely dedicated to N. Korea if dialogue resumes: State Dept.
The United States may consider appointing a special envoy solely dedicated to issues related to North Korea should there be active dialogue with the reclusive country, a state department spokesperson said Tuesday. The department spokesperson, Ned Price, also underscored Pyongyang continued disregard for U.S. overtures as a reason for Sung Kim concurrently serving as special envoy for North Korea and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia.
S. Korea to lift mandatory registration policy for foreign investors in 2023
South Korea's financial regulator said Tuesday it plans to abolish the existing mandatory registration policy for foreigners investing in local stocks within this year, in line with efforts to meet global standards. The move came as foreigners are currently required to file personal information with local financial authorities before purchasing listed South Korean stocks. The policy, which does not exist in other major markets, including the United States, Japan and Germany, has been cited as one of the excessive regulations for foreigners seeking investment opportunities in South Korea.
S. Korean gov't calls in Japanese diplomat to protest Tokyo's Dokdo claims
The South Korean government has called in a Japanese diplomat in Seoul to lodge a protest over the Japanese foreign minister's recent claims to the East Sea islets of Dokdo, sources said Tuesday. Seo Min-jung, director general for Asia and Pacific affairs at Seoul's foreign ministry, brought in Naoki Kumagai, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy here on Monday, after Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi laid claim to Dokdo in a parliamentary policy speech.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
‘Rewriting wartime past’ clouds prospects for forced labor deal
A second attempt by Japan to seek a UNESCO World Heritage List designation for a 400-year-old gold mine that South Korea says forced Koreans into labor during World War II is casting a shadow over current bilateral talks underway to resolve the dispute. Tokyo formally refiled a request Friday to obtain recognition for its Sado Island mine, omitting the history of Koreans forced to work at what was once the world’s largest gold producer before the shutdown in 1989. Updated documents submitted this time potentially accounted for “insufficient information,” the reason for initial delay. The additional information, however, does not have to do with rights abuses.
Will Samsung, Hyundai clash over robots?
South Korea’s two major conglomerates, Samsung and Hyundai, have long been keeping their distance as they avoid competing head-on in their core businesses. But the decades-old unspoken rule may be ending in robotics, a burgeoning area where their leaders are pouring resources in search of a future growth driver. Hyundai with hardware prowess. Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s third-largest carmaker dominating almost 90 percent of car sales at home, was the first to make a big move by acquiring a 80 percent stake in Boston Dynamics, one of a handful of companies that make bipedal human-like robots, in an $880 million megadeal in 2021.
N. Korean media decries Yoon's remarks on Iran
A North Korean propaganda outlet on Tuesday criticized President Yoon Suk Yeol's recent remarks on Iran's relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), noting they drew Tehran's wrath and created a "commotion" in the South. During a recent visit to a South Korean military contingent in the UAE, Yoon said that the UAE's "enemy and biggest threat" is Iran while the South's enemy is North Korea.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
US military presence in S. Korea does not bother N. Korea at all: Pompeo
North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un are not bothered at all by the U.S. military presence in South Korea, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued in a memoir published Tuesday. They rather consider U.S. troops in South Korea as a protection against Chinese dominance, according to Pompeo. Pompeo said the North Korean leader had raised the issue of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises during their first meeting in Pyongyang.
US may appoint special envoy solely dedicated to N. Korea if dialogue resumes: State Dept.
The United States may consider appointing a special envoy solely dedicated to issues related to North Korea should there be active dialogue with the reclusive country, a state department spokesperson said Tuesday. The department spokesperson, Ned Price, also underscored Pyongyang continued disregard for U.S. overtures as a reason for Sung Kim concurrently serving as special envoy for North Korea and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia. "If we are to arrive at a position where it does make sense to have an individual singularly focused as special envoy for the DPRK, we can cross that bridge.
Banks offer financial support programs as households face mounting interest burdens
Local commercial lenders are launching a series of financial support programs for households and vulnerable social groups amid escalating pressure from watchdogs. KB Kookmin Bank was the first to operate its own household support program, in a preemptive move to ease households' growing financial burden. The lender will cut the interest rate for loans that are overdue by 1 percentage point for those who sign up for its household loan products. This cut will come into effect sometime in February after KB finishes updating its computing system, it said.
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